Willow Garage is making a play to become the definitive platform for robotics research. They have a powerful tag team of open source hardware and software – the PR2 Beta robot and the Robot Operating System (ROS). Willow Garage is giving away eleven of these bots to research groups around the world to foster innovation through open source collaboration. But by distributing the PR2 they aren’t just invigorating robotics research, they’re also placing the PR2 at the center of that burgeoning industry. ROS is gaining ground rapidly too, well on its way to becoming the Linux of robotics. Together these two systems form an amazing platform that is open for everyone to share. A flurry of new research is set to explode forth from this platform, and Willow Garage will be at the center of it all. Founder Scott Hassan and co-directors Eric Berger and Keenan Wyrobek delved into the power and promise of the Willow Garage platform at the recent launch event for the PR2 Beta robot give away. Check out their presentations in the video below.
Willow Garage makes the PR2 robot, but they are years from commercializing it. Even when they do, it will be entirely open source. ROS is a joint project shared among dozens of groups, but Willow Garage is the driving force behind it. It too is open source. I know some may marvel at how a Silicon Valley company can invest millions into these products and yet not hold any exclusive intellectual property rights. How is this going to work out for Willow Garage? Very well, I suspect. Willow Garage is on the way to making their combined hardware/software platform (PR2/ROS) a cornerstone of robotics research. They’ll be a nexus for an industry that will soon expand enormously. Open source or not, when Willow Garage commercializes, I think they’ll be just fine. In the meantime they are laying the foundation for a revolution in robotic innovation…so it’s a net win for everyone. Watching Hassan, Berger, and Wyrobek in the clip below, I get the impression that I’m looking at some of the most visionary guys in the field. The only ones that outshine them are the PR2 robots themselves. Don’t miss their arrival around 4:45.
[screen capture and video credit: SingularityHub]